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Researching people and organizations

Rowley, Jennifer (2004) Researching people and organizations. ISSN 1758-7921

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Abstract

Research is important in responding to changing environments. Acquaintance with qualitative research methodologies provides an opportunity for understanding digital and hybrid libraries. This article explores three approaches to research that Library and information professionals can use to structure the way in which they look at their environment, and the organization in and with which they are working: observation, case studies and action research. Four essential considerations for good research are: adding to existing knowledge; a clear purpose or research question; objectivity and reliability; and, access, ethics and politics. Observation can be developed into a research approach through attention to structuring of the observation. Different types of observation are participant and non-participant, and overt and covert. Case studies are useful for lending a deeper understanding of a situation. Rigour is injected into case study methodology through consideration of questions, propositions, units of analysis, methods of evidence gathering, and the criteria for the interpretation of findings. Action research encourages practitioners to acquire the habit of the researcher in the workplace, and typically has the twin goals of solving a management problem and making a contribution to knowledge. There are two cycles in action research, the action research cycle that relates to the action research project, and the meta-learning cycle that relates to the learning processes that are part of action research. Common principles that apply to all of these approaches are identified, and suggestions for potential areas of application are made.

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